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Artists add visual touch to local band's tunes

Music and art have long gone hand-in-hand, but Lilac Shadows is taking it one step further by merging the two into one collaborative multimedia exhibit.

The four-piece band from Durham will be hosting an exhibition in conjunction to its album release of No Dark/No Light from Feb. 4 through 15 at the Carrack Modern Art gallery in Durham. The exhibit, along with the release show, will feature roughly 25 local artists who have produced anything from knitting to hand drawings.

Sam Logan, the band’s lead singer, said the idea for the project came from guitarist Nathan Price, but they only now have the perfect opportunity to pull it off. Logan said he and his bandmates contacted their network of visual artists, asking them to create a piece of artwork in response to the band’s new album, accepting any kind of medium.

“The response was really encouraging,” Logan said. “The exhibit is a few weeks away and we have so many submissions already.”

Brian Howe, an arts writer for the IndyWeek and an exhibit contributor, said he was excited to work on the project because it gave him a wide range of possibilities. Howe submitted a screen print in which he picked a lyric sheet from the album, ran a frequency analysis on it and created a poem of the words above five letters that appeared most often in the sheet. Then his collaborator, Amanda Dahill-Moore, created a cyanotype based on his visual text.

“It’s pretty cool to see all these different techniques being filtered through this one thing — this album,” Howe said. “It’s like light scattered through a prism, you get all these colors and shapes out of it.”

Among the other local artists featured in the exhibit is Harrison Haynes, who submitted a photograph of a manhole in the snow, which he said evoked the somber tones of the music. Haynes said he was excited when Lilac Shadows approached them with the idea.

“I’m a visual artist myself and I think things are overlapping and interweaving in my life, it’s really sensible to me,” Haynes said.

Ann Tilley, another local artist, said she submitted a multicolored knitted piece with the words “Full-on Melt Down” embroidered on it.

“I think Lilac Shadows has this really interesting melancholic vocals that they’re using,” Tilley said. “There’s nothing more beautiful than a totally sad song. I think the piece that I’m showing has that same idea, this juxtaposition of beauty and sadness.”

Logan said he was amazed at the diversity of media and formats that have been submitted. “There’s not really a lot of congruency, but I think that’s a cool thing. Everyone’s interpretation has been wildly different.”

Reed Benjamin, the band’s drummer, said he felt awe-inspired at the fact that people actually responded to the record in a physical way.

“You can listen to stuff all day, you can hear stuff on the internet, and you can even read short little blurbs about a song or a record, or watch a video and there are comments about it, but all that stuff is so frivolous,” Benjamin said. “We now have these physical things that actually take up space in a room that are reactions to the music we made.”

Laura Ritchie, co-founder of the Carrack, said she was impressed by Lilac Shadow’s vision, which fit perfectly with the Carrack’s model of complete creative freedom.

“We wanted to start a space that would support artists at all levels of their career,” Ritchie said. “We wanted to make it very accessible to all members and artists of the community.”

Ritchie said the band’s proposal did not include any images, just an idea.

“I don’t know that there are a lot of other spaces that would be willing to take a risk like that, to invest in an idea without having the physical objects,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie said the Carrack’s mission is to provide a space for artists to connect with the community while experimenting with their creativity. The art gallery is community-run, based on donations, and all exhibits are set up by the artists with all proceeds going to the artists themselves.

Logan said the inspiration to host the exhibit at the Carrack came from seeing Atlanta, Ga. band Deerhunter play a secret show there in March of 2013.

“Having seen a band like Deerhunter a dozen times at the (Carrboro Cat’s) Cradle and then seeing them in a space that tiny was like, “Yes! This is how I want people to experience our music,’” Logan said.

Logan said he started to feel burned out playing at traditional venues and wanted to try something different. The Deerhunter show planted the idea to perform in a different environment, giving the audience a more intimate and interactive experience.

“It takes a long time of doing the same things and the same kinds of shows and the same kind of writing to figure out how to get out of that box,” Benjamin said. “It’s like a light bulb goes off and you realize there really aren’t any rules.”

Logan said he loved the idea of people pushing themselves to explore unorthodox performance styles.

“I think we are trying to do something that people might not expect from Lilac Shadows,” he said.

The band has gone through several line up changes in the past couple of years, shifting the band’s sound and live set up. Logan said this exhibit will be a launch pad for a new version of the band.

“Lilac Shadows was dormant for most of 2013, just recording and doing a few shows here and there, I think this is a cool way to kind of re-introduce ourselves,” he said.

“It’s kind of funny to be putting out this new record just because we definitely don’t sound like that anymore,” Logan said. “Now the band is a much more collaborative project and we’re writing songs as a band for the first time. So having that parallel the structure of the exhibit, where it’s a collaborative thing we’re all presenting as one, is really a great complement to how the band is now.

“It’s like we’re all finally presenting the band as one as opposed to a collection of people playing some songs I wrote.”

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